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SMSL SU-10 DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 3.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 14 3.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 56 15.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 279 77.3%

  • Total voters
    361
This site is in an embrace with Shenzhen, leading to nothing. When you believe that you cannot hear the small differences this race to the bottom has no value. At the other side of the spectrum: when you’re sure the sound is more important than measurements this has no value too.

Without doubt Shenzhen already has finished another dac with slightly better measurements. I think they even plan this carefully. With a smile on their face.
If you believe that you can hear those tiniest differences, then please go on and prove it in a properly done DBT test and post your results and findings. Then we may consider such claims serious. I am not aware of any single such test with the SOTA DACs.

P.S.: I made several trials, level matched, technically properly managed, with always negative results.
 
If you believe that you can hear those tiniest differences, then please go on and prove it in a properly done DBT test and post your results and findings. Then we may consider such claims serious. I am not aware of any single such test with the SOTA DACs.

P.S.: I made several trials, level matched, technically properly managed, with always negative results.

Thanks for making my statement stronger.
 
This site is in an embrace with Shenzhen, leading to nothing. When you believe that you cannot hear the small differences this race to the bottom has no value. At the other side of the spectrum: when you’re sure the sound is more important than measurements this has no value too.

Without doubt Shenzhen already has finished another dac with slightly better measurements. I think they even plan this carefully. With a smile on their face.
What?
I think you have no idea what you are saying.
 
This site is in an embrace with Shenzhen
I must say I find many of your posts quite negative and often grating. What is the purpose of same and why keep doing it in review threads?

No one is forcing anyone to buy anything and if members already have a decent DAC they won't be reading this with a purchase in mind, more so to analyse the measurements. I'm not sure you realise, but many of us enjoy seeing an audio product measured and tested. It's not about audibility or a purchase for many of us, it's a deep interest in the subject matter. For those that do need a DAC and are in the market for same, the data in the review threads here are invaluable.


JSmith
 
Great now we need unit with similar performance, DSP, storable P.EQ profiles, SOA Headphone Amp, and build it ramen machine
 
What?
I think you have no idea what you are saying.
He is saying that SMSL already had a line-up of DACs ready and is just releasing them all in a row starting with the worst performing one and releasing a slightly better product after that. That way people keep on buying the next best thing. At least that is what I get from it.
 
The DAC manufacturers are given/sold a selection of ICs and they make what they can from those. The DAC manufacturers cannot choose a grade of IC and expect it to be there in 6 months for cheap consumption. In other words the manufacturers of DACs and stuff cannot determine the IC makers agenda. Silicon is getting better and better and time marches on...
Chip manufacturers don't release a new flagship every years.
 
This site is in an embrace with Shenzhen, leading to nothing. When you believe that you cannot hear the small differences this race to the bottom has no value. At the other side of the spectrum: when you’re sure the sound is more important than measurements this has no value too.

Without doubt Shenzhen already has finished another dac with slightly better measurements. I think they even plan this carefully. With a smile on their face.
You didn't seem to have a problem with this site embracing the Neumann KH420.
There's clearly a market for incrementally improved SMSL DACs, otherwise they'd be out of business. This one is not for me either, paying a premium for inaudible improvements, but I do like seeing it tested. Thanks Amir.
 
I haven't done the math but I think we are at the wall.
Lower distortion measurements are possible with an external notch filter. See Wolf's review of the Cosmos APU.
Also curious:
Wolf's unit of the SU-10 doesn't show any ESS hump. Maybe a firmware thing?
1662567258-SMPTE-Ratio.jpg
 
You didn't seem to have a problem with this site embracing the Neumann KH420.
There's clearly a market for incrementally improved SMSL DACs, otherwise they'd be out of business. This one is not for me either, paying a premium for inaudible improvements, but I do like seeing it tested. Thanks Amir.
There may be a market still and now, but they shouldn't take that for granted, it will reach saturation at some point. The question is not if it will, the question is when. The best way to insure not being out of business is to innovate to stay relevant by proposing something new to the ecosystem. If you don't and keep offering the same thing in a new suit over and over, the market will move to manufacturers that do have something new to offer that customers wants.
 
There may be a market still and now, but they shouldn't take that for granted, it will reach saturation at some point. The question is not if it will, the question is when. The best way to insure not being out of business is to innovate to stay relevant by proposing something new to the ecosystem. If you don't and keep offering the same thing in a new suit over and over, the market will move to manufacturers that do have something new to offer that customers wants.
I agree, and I think (hope) it will happen soon. There's a glut of SOTA DACs on the market, many of which are very inexpensive. Time for Topping, SMSL et al. to move to more functionality in their DACs. PEQ especially. But, while we are where we are, objective measured reviews still serve a purpose. Are there too many SMSL reviews on ASR? I don't know. I'm happy to see them.
 
Lower distortion measurements are possible with an external notch filter. See Wolf's review of the Cosmos APU.
Also curious:
Wolf's unit of the SU-10 doesn't show any ESS hump. Maybe a firmware thing?
View attachment 238254
I could see 2 trim pots in the teardown of the SMSL M500 MKIII. I guess they are for the virtual ground in the I/V stage. This needs a human interaction or a more sophisticated automated interaction during production, and a correct value of this voltage has a big influence on the IMD hump. Hopefully it would be done correct because of the big tolerances of the ESS 9038 pro output impedance. Additionally, it's not easy to adjust because you need to do the IMD test individually. A teardown of the SU-10 can be helpful to proof my idea.
 
Don't know. For 900$, I think I would be looking into an RME ADI-2-DAC FS. Will sound the same but has tons of features the SU-10 does not have, including EQ. And it has vastly superior support, receives new features via firmware updates and has a more than decent integrated headphone amp.

Impressive SINAD aside, I think SMSL is aiming for a price bracket where they would have to compete with features and an existing after sales support which are just not there atm.
 
This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL SU-10 Balanced DAC with Bluetooth. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $900.
View attachment 238217
Front panel is smooth and slick and sports the new colorful display from SMSL with large volume level which I very much appreciate. Interestingly volume goes up another 2 dB (or so) so you have a bit of headroom. Back panel shows some new features:
View attachment 238218
For the first time we have a choice of USB-B and -c inputs which you can select from the menu. Another new feature is ability to turn on the balanced or RCA outputs independently or together. Nice!

The high cost is partially due to use of not one, but two ESS ES9038Pro DAC chips. The 8 channels in each chip is combined to get the best dynamic range for each channel.

Based on company recommendation, I upgraded the unit to latest firmware.

SMSL SU-10 Measurements
Let's start with our usual balanced output after letting the device warm up (SMSL recommendation):
View attachment 238219
Distortion is extremely low at -140 dB so SINAD is noise dominate as usual. It is hitting the limits of the analyzer in this front but it still manages to squeak by to get #1 place:
View attachment 238220
Of course no one should worry about fraction of dB SINAD as the measurements are highly variable in that regard.

RCA output performance is a bit lower as usual but still excellent:
View attachment 238221

Dynamic range is superb as we would expect:
View attachment 238222

At max volume, balanced dynamic range got close to 132 dB.

IMD distortion and noise is very low although there is more than a hint of "ESS IMD Hump:"
View attachment 238223

Linearity is perfect:
View attachment 238224

Multitone test shows the very low distortion:
View attachment 238225

Jitter performance is uniform and excellent on all three inputs:
View attachment 238226

The usual set of filters are provided:

View attachment 238227

As you can see, there is also an "off" mode available which oddly was the default.

Frequency response suggest Fast Linear as one of the better filters to use:
View attachment 238228

Using that we get excellent broadband THD+N vs frequency:
View attachment 238229

Conclusions
The SU-10 is an excellently engineered DAC. It aims to squeeze the last bit of performance available. Such improvement is limited by how well I can measure it due to analyzer noise itself. We clearly have state of the art performance here. Whether that justifies the higher cost is something that is your business and not mine. :)

Besides performance we have nice new functionality in the form of two independent USB inputs and support for independent audio outputs. One or the other may be critical for some of you.

I am happy to recommend the SMSL SU-10 DAC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Amirm Cool review.What is the firmware number in su10?
 
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There may be a market still and now, but they shouldn't take that for granted, it will reach saturation at some point. The question is not if it will, the question is when. The best way to insure not being out of business is to innovate to stay relevant by proposing something new to the ecosystem. If you don't and keep offering the same thing in a new suit over and over, the market will move to manufacturers that do have something new to offer that customers wants.
I think companies like minidsp have been profiting of this status quo with virtually no concurrence since years.

Going back to the measurements. Can someone indicate why L7audiolab measures better dynamic range? Does he measure at full volume?
 
I could see 2 trim pots in the teardown of the SMSL M500 MKIII. I guess they are for the virtual ground in the I/V stage. This needs a human interaction or a more sophisticated automated interaction during production, and a correct value of this voltage has a big influence on the IMD hump. Hopefully it would be done correct because of the big tolerances of the ESS 9038 pro output impedance. Additionally, it's not easy to adjust because you need to do the IMD test individually. A teardown of the SU-10 can be helpful to proof my idea.
That trim pots set the 0 volts at the output I/V converter.
 
That trim pots set the 0 volts at the output I/V converter.
Please read the the thread's about ess hump and the datasheed of the 9038 you can learn something.:) before you state this.
 
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